Dave Barnes wrote an entertaining piece about trees and climbing called Things of Stone and Wood. We invited readers to submit photos and/or a description of their own tree experience. We got some great submissions!
There is a magnificent tree that grows ~300 feet off the ground in a small alcove below the route, Iron Hawk on El Capitan. I spent many a day with this tree.
Once, I hauled one of the branches that had broken off and then dropped the branch to the ground.
When Russ Walling and I were doing Iron Hawk, we climbed the A1 route to the tree ledge. We then threw ropes directly down from the tree, down to "Bob the Aid Man," who had hiked up to help us attach the bags to the rope. Somehow, he clipped the rope into the bottom of one haulbag and neglected to look at how the rope was tossed all over the surrounding forest.
“All Clear!" he incorrectly called.
We hauled and hauled, it took all of our efforts to get the bags up. Once the bags arrived, we discovered that the rope had picked up the 100 pound branch, which was about 15 feet long and 8" in diameter - it was all tangled in our bags.
There was more, the bag was upside down, and the second bag only hanging awkwardly below.
Definitely one of the toughest hauls ever up to this tree.
-- John Deucey Middendorf
I was belaying my partner up King Rat at Mt Arapiles on a particularly windy day and we hadn't paid too much attention to the strange cracking sounds we had heard. All of a sudden there's a big cracking sound and I look up to see a tree falling down the gully right above me. I had to pick up the rope and scuttle out of the way while trying not to pull my partner off the crux of the climb.
-- Kate Ferguson
My wife and climbing partner Stef and I were climbing Sea of Holes in Whitehorse NH. The route itself was a punch-in-the-face welcome to Whitehorse runout, and the crux 10' below the anchor was the final punch for me. Confidence was low, gear was strange, and paranoia of uninsured injury was high.
Instead of going for it, I punted off to the moss-covered (but protectable!) ramp to the right and belayed her up to the shrubby ledge.
Above us was a massive tree that had toppled who knows when. It was big enough to lower a '76 Cadillac Sixty Special, but it looked like a single 5" diameter branch was holding it all up. Before toppling, the tree was the rap station for some other climbs and we had hoped it would be ours (see the tat around the tree), but no luck.
Sketched, we managed to get around and above the tree, but it was ugly! We had to downclimb the left side and traverse around to the true, bolted anchor for this route. This whole absurd "cop out" was likely much harder than the crux I expertly avoided. I still worry about the day that behemoth cuts loose.
-- Rick Momsen
A few years ago, I decided I was going to climb El Capitan. I realized I needed a way to train for doing hundreds of pull ups a day for at least 5 days in a row. I live in the middle of the woods in rural Maine. There aren’t any climbing gyms within 2 hours of my house, so that was not an option. I have a friend, Sean O’ Neill who is also a wheelchair user. He also happens to have climbed El Capitan at least 3 times using the same pull up technique I planned to use. So, who better to consult about training?
Sean lived about an hour from me at the time. He suggested I come over and train in his tree. My first thought was how are we going to get a rope in a tree. Sean being the experienced climber that he is, had a system all figured out. He girth hitched 2 ropes around him and just moved the top one up and then the bottom to the top over and over until he was 32 feet in the air up the tree. He fixed a chain anchor put the rope through and we were ready to bust out pull ups.
I spent many days over the next year getting to know every inch of that 32 ft of tree. About three quarters of the way up there was a spot where a few branches had been cut and left behind nubs that stuck out just enough to make it hard to pass. I had to push off with my elbow or sometimes my hand and do a one arm pull up. Once again part of a tree became my crux. After months of doing at least 8 laps a day up and down that tree I had the system dialed in. By the time I arrived at El Cap I was ready to go thanks to Sean and that tree.
-- Enock Glidden
To read more about Enock's ascent up El Cap check out El Capitan.
A certain Victorian (Aussie) climber reached my high point on a first ascent at Mt Buffalo and also backed off lacking a decent runner. To save leaving gear he looped the rope around two or so ‘trees’ (read weeds) to set up an abseil. Another mate was on belay and I was with him on the ledge with a rather slack attachment. The rock above was severely overhanging and the leader was out of sight. Suddenly we heard a gasp, then another gasp. He sounded quite worried. Moments later a mass of rope and vegetation came plummeting into sight with the climber at its centre. As he whizzed past I stupidly made a grab for the rope and was successful in grabbing something. To my amazement the leader swung into the chimney groove about 7 metres below like a puppet on a string and stopped relatively unscathed. I didn’t feel any strain, nor did the belayer, and to this day the belayer and I (and perhaps the leader too) cannot satisfactorily explain what happened.
-- Keith Bell
-- Keith Bell